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Small business group calls for ‘adequate broadband access for all’

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the Government to ensure that its broadband policy will allow all small firms access to adequate broadband facilities.

The call follows a recent report from the business group, which reveals that many small firms rely on internet trading to find new customers abroad.

According to the survey, four out of ten businesses that trade online do business with other countries in the European Economic Area, while a third trade online with North America and Canada, and a quarter with Australasia.

The FSB has highlighted a number of barriers faced by small businesses, the biggest of which is a lack of access to high speed broadband. In addition, the organisation believes that small businesses are being put off online trading as a result of poor postal delivery services, concerns about online payment fraud, and a lack of knowledge.

A quarter of businesses reported that they only have access to broadband speeds of up to 2Mbps. Meanwhile, 9% of small firms reported that current generation broadband, of up to 24Mbps, is not available across any of their websites, and a further 22% said that it is not available for at least one of their websites.

In the 2011 Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced further funding of £100m for up to 10 ‘super connected cities’, together with a £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) for remote rural areas. However, the FSB believes that the RCBF will not do enough to solve the problem of the ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural areas.

John Walker, FSB National Chairman, said, ‘Online trading has helped to empower small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new models and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses. Online trade has great potential for small businesses but it still has its barriers. These must be removed’.